Water Utility Leaders Take Innovative Infrastructure Proposal to Congress
Utility leaders approached Congress in more than 400 meetings during American Water Works Association, Water Environment Federation Water Matters! Fly In
Jerry Bever, WUC Chair
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – More than 160 water utility leaders took to Capitol Hill Wednesday, March 7th and Thursday, March 8th to show their support for draft legislation that would create a federal Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA).
The draft legislation, currently being considered by the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, would lower the cost of large water projects for consumers at a time when infrastructure is aging and in need of replacement. The Fly-In took place just days after AWWA released a new report showing the investment needs in drinking water infrastructure alone will top $1 trillion over the next 25 years. Needs on the wastewater side are thought to be similar.
Participating again in this year’s Water Matters! Fly-In, representing the Illinois Section AWWA, were Jerry Bever, Baxter & Woodman; Tom Skelly, City of Springfield; and John Donahue, North Park Public Water District. During their meetings with Illinois Congressional members and staff over the two days of the Fly-In, Jerry, Tom and John explained the merits of WIFIA, and sought support for the legislation as it proceeds through the legislative process. They emphasized that having a reliable water supply and a means of treating wastewater before returning it to the environment are necessary to economic development. Rehabilitating and replacing needed infrastructure produces jobs and helps protect public health. The U.S. Department of Commerce has estimated that every dollar spent on water infrastructure generates $2.62 in the private economy. For every job added to the water workforce, about 3.68 jobs are added nationally.
The WIFIA mechanism would borrow U.S.Treasury funds to provide low-interest loans, loan guarantees, or other credit support to local communities. Loan repayments – with interest – and guarantee fees would flow back to WIFIA and into the Treasury – again, with interest. Eligible water infrastructure projects would include water, wastewater, and wet weather related projects.
Pictured below left in the rotunda of the Cannon House Office Building are (from left to right) Jerry Bever, Tom Skelly and John Donahue, and below right are John Donahue, Congressman Adam Kinzinger and Jerry Bever. Congressman Kinzinger represents Illinois in the 11th Congressional District.